Duly Noted: 6 unusual class offerings

The Science of Harry Potter – Frostburg State University

The course examines the magical events in J.K. Rowling’s books and explains them using the basic principles of physics. Physics professor George R. Plitnik taught the class as an honors seminar at the Maryland school.

The Simpsons and Philosophy – UC Berkley

UC English student and student instructor Tyler Shores developed this philosophy class. It’s part of a program where students can develop initiatives outside the norm with faculty.  “What the Simpsons represent is nothing less than a glimpse at the complex human condition, how we live now and make our way morally in an often confusing world,” Shores said in an interview with SF Gate.

Arguing with Judge Judy: Popular ‘Logic’ on TV Judge Shows. –UC Berkely

This offering is described in the course catalog as an analysis of logic in pop culture. From the description: “a fascinating aspect of these shows from a rhetorical point of view is the number of arguments made by the litigants that are utterly illogical, or perversions of standard logic, and yet are used over and over again. For example, when asked ‘Did you hit the plaintiff?’ respondents often say, ‘If I woulda hit him, he’d be dead!’ This reply avoids answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ by presenting a perverted form of the logical strategy called ‘a fortiori’ argument [‘from the stronger’] in Latin. The seminar will be concerned with identifying such apparently popular logical fallacies on ‘Judge Judy’ and ‘The People’s Court’ and discussing why such strategies are so widespread.” 

The Science of Superheroes – UC Irvine

From the course catalog:Have you ever wondered if Superman could really bend steel bars? Would a ‘gamma ray’ accident turn you into the Hulk? What is a ‘spidey-sense?’ And just who did think of all these superheroes and their powers? In this seminar, we discuss the science (or lack of science) behind many of the most famous superheroes. Even more amazing, we will discuss what kind of superheroes might be imagined using our current scientific understanding.”

South Park and Contemporary Issues  – McDaniel College

The course description:Over 12 seasons and more than 180 episodes, the cartoon show South Park has never avoided discussing controversial contemporary social issues. Often controversial itself, South Park uses humor to explore issues such as immigration, gay marriage, terrorism, and hundreds more. This course is an interdisciplinary approach towards extending and deepening the discussions already present in the show. Using historical and contemporary texts, theories, and concepts from sociology and philosophy, this course will address issues such as race, gender, sexuality, consumerism, and many more.”

Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame – UC South Carolina

Course overview: “Within a framework of the sociology of popular culture and music, this lecture-based course focuses on societal elements in the rise of Lady Gaga’s popularity to her global status as a pop music icon. The central objective of this course, then, is to unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga. Specific attention in this analysis will be devoted to the role of: business and marketing; the old and the new media; fans and live shows; gay culture; religious and political themes; sex and sexuality; and the city of New York.”





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